Using Digital Engineering to Capture Knowledge and Drive Innovation

By Akio
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clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Using #DigitalEngineering to Capture Knowledge &
Drive Innovation #AEC @CadMakersCo @3DSAEC

For Javier Glatt, CEO of CadMakers Inc., one of the chief benefits of digital modeling is the ability to capture knowledge that can be shared with collaborators and applied to future projects—whether or not those collaborators use digital tools.

In fact, he advised his audience in a presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum to find a business model that removes the burden on industry veterans of learning the latest technology, while still incorporating their invaluable knowledge.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Remove the burden on #AEC industry veterans to learn the latest tech, but retain their knowledge @CadMakersCo @3DSAEC

For example, when working with mechanical contractor Trotter & Morton on a wastewater treatment plant, the CadMakers team was tasked with optimizing the workflow using digital modeling and improved collaboration, even though many of the individuals on the project didn’t use computers.

Glatt’s team worked closely with the project contractor to essentially capture his 30 years of insight into the digital project.

Through their combined knowledge, they were able to ultimately determine areas that could be prefabricated offsite and reduce the onsite labor from 20 people to 5.

Glatt points out that despite the focus on 3D, it’s important to use tools that can still deliver information in traditional ways. Being able to deliver a cut sheet and an automated bill of materials to fabricators reduces the barrier of entry for those shops.

“If we can provide information that’s really easy to understand, just about anyone can cut that pipe,” Glatt says.

More Reliable Innovation

Glatt also explored how digital design can help contractors innovate more easily than ever before.

When working with property developer UBC Properties Trust, CadMakers helped explore the use of mass timber in an 18-story building.

Because codes only regulate the material in the first six floors, the project team turned to a digital environment to demonstrate to code officials that mass timber could safely be used in this application.

The first step was a digital mockup that tested 16 different connection points. While Glatt says it proved helpful to later build a live mockup, the digital mockup helped the builder to immediately select a preferred connection. Once the mockup was complete, the project overall was 60% faster than a traditional build of a concrete building of a same size, Glatt says.

From there, the digital model would ultimately include details as specific as every nut and bolt and screw. That level of detail was absolutely necessary in this unique project. For example, in the design phase the team was considering using highly specific mass timber screws coming from Germany, at $2 per screw, posed a risk from a cost perspective.

Every floor was detailed down to every stud in order to provide fabrication data directly from the model. And given the fire risk for a timber building, the encapsulation layer was thoroughly detailed to communicate compliance with all fire regulations.

The mechanical room was another area that proved ripe for prefabrication—it holds a lot of complexity in a small area, and relatively few trades are involved in its production. The team used DELMIA to break down the room’s master assembly into each subassembly by system and then to the part level to integrate a manufacturing-like bill of materials.

According to Glatt, this process reduced work from roughly 1,000 labor hours to approximately 320.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: How @CadMakersCo reduced work from 1,000 labor hours to 320 on an 18-story timber project @3DSAEC

The ultimate benefit was speed to market. The under construction project, originally planned to build in 20 months, is projected to be complete 4 months ahead of schedule.

The model was followed exactly by the contractors onsite. Because the project was built virtually numerous times before ever being constructed, each part and process was finely tuned.

Data-Driven Certainty

CadMakers also helped developer Westbank (ICON Construction is their in-house General Contractor) to use data-driven decision-making to create a complicated glass facade.

The project called for a dual radius curve of glass for the windows, with dual radius curve extrusions for the top and bottom sills, and pre-cast concrete to match. Each component was produced in a different country, so precision was key.

Using numerical analysis to precisely determine the geometry essentially changed the way the project was bid, Glatt says.

“You used to go out to the market with a façade, do a few drawings, throw it out to multiple fabricators and ask, ‘How much does this façade cost?’” Glatt says. With that strategy, there are typically surprises, and change orders are the norm.

Instead, the team used CATIA to write a script that created 2,020 unique total panels and slab edge panels automatically.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: With @3DSCATIA, the @CadMakersCo team scripted >2000 unique panels automatically @3DSAEC

The geometry was exported so that instead of offering rough drawings out to multiple fabricators to bids, the builder or architect is able to tell the market with precision what was needed, and get more precise costs in return.

By precisely detailing the amounts of parts needed and the geometry of those parts in the conceptual stage, the designer can determine feasibility early on and get more precise bids from fabricators.

Paying Knowledge Forward

Glatt emphasized that every project presents an opportunity to learn and build new value through digital engineering. “We learn at scale, build use cases and automation tools to solve those problems, and incrementally get better each time,” Glatt says.

By capturing, digitizing and scaling knowledge through rules and catalog components, lessons learned on each project can be shared among the entire team and applied to future projects.

“As a business owner, I don’t want to lose the value of learning when I have someone work on a really interesting project,” Glatt says. “If we can capture that [knowledge] in a rule, as a reusable tool, then it helps me. I can have 10 people who didn’t work on that project get all the benefit of that learning from one individual, and then we can apply that to the next incremental project.”

Related Resources

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Design for Fabrication Industry Solution Experience

Optimized Construction Industry Solution Experience

Profiting From Unity

By Akio
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The construction industry is turning to the cloud for improved efficiency and profitability.

The rapidly growing global construction industry suffers from fragmentation, which increases risks, leads to wasteful practices and negatively affects project delivery and stakeholder interests. But now, cloud-based collaborative tools are replacing traditional industry practices with new business models that imagine, design and construct better buildings.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: #AEC Turns to the Cloud
for Improved Efficiency & Profitability


Article by Nic Lerner, originally printed in COMPASS Magazine 

From the Construction Intelligence Center to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), most industry trackers agree that construction is in for a boom.

A PwC–sponsored report entitled “Global Construction 2030,” published by Global Construction Perspectives with Oxford Economics, predicts a compound growth of 85%, to US$15.5 trillion, by 2030.

That level of expansion is more than a percentage point higher than the 3.9% annual growth rate projected for the global economy as a whole, driven in large part by rapid growth in urban populations.

But a dark cloud looms behind those silver growth projections.

The industry, experts agree, is so fragmented with numerous segments – architects, engineers, construction firms and dozens of trades both big and small – that it is not prepared to handle this level of expansion.

A LEGAL TANGLE

Javier Glatt, co-founder and CEO of CadMakers Virtual Construction, a Vancouver-based integrated construction technology firm, said the reasons for fragmentation come down to legal responsibility.

“The causes of fragmentation are risk and liability issues and their apportionment through the industry,” he said.

As buildings become bigger and increasingly complex, they require more specialized skills at every stage. Tiers of subcontractors are appointed not only to do the work, but also to carry some of the risk.

Glatt cites a misalignment of incentives between stakeholders and contractors, with some working to push down costs while others seek to benefit from budget increases.

Even the design process becomes fragmented, with different contractors responsible for structures, facades, visualization, analysis and multiple building systems.

The good news, however, is that there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Automating processes and making prefabricated components off-site reduce risk, cost, waste and errors,” he said.

“Working with a single unified 3D model that everyone has access to helps solve a lot of problems that arise when contractors don’t or can’t communicate among themselves.”

When each contractor produces its own individual model and data, the chances of error and miscommunication increase.

With a unified project model, Glatt said, “builders understand their role in the project and their interactions with other contractors. They can concentrate on their core skills, solve problems and build better.”

PERCENTAGE GAINS

Research conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, a leading data, analytics, news and intelligence provider for the North American construction industry, reinforces these observations.

Donna Laquidara-Carr, the company’s Insights Research director, said that their analysis of Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) industry data, from a study conducted in partnership with the Lean Construction Institute, shows that 92% of “typical projects” – those that suffer from fragmentation – experience delays, 85% go over budget and 63% suffer quality defects.

“The data demonstrates that integrated project delivery correlates with significant performance improvements and waste reduction,” Laquidara-Carr said. “And we hear time and again that the key to unlocking these benefits is early stage collaboration.”

The data shows that only 1% of owners deployed project integration tools on typical projects, she said, but that these tools were used on 22% of the industry’s “best-performing projects.”

Consequently, positive team chemistry was reported on 68% of the “best projects,” compared with just 10% on “typical projects.” Teams were well- integrated on 61% of the “best projects,” but only on 9% of “typical projects.”

The data indicate that when all stakeholders – including owners, contractors and trades – are integrated in a virtual “big room” that facilitates working together as one team, the AEC industry functions better, Laquidara-Carr said.

A virtual “big room” is a term for a unified online communications and collaboration platform.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) was heralded as a solution to fragmentation, but industry experience has not been consistently positive.

Tim Beckett, director of Beckett Rankine, a UK-based specialist marine civil engineering consultancy, is a design contractor on the 25-kilometer (16 miles), 7.4-meter (24 feet) diameter Thames Tideway Tunnel. The super sewer is budgeted at £4.2 billion (US$5.2 billion) and will reach depths of 65 meters (213 feet).

Tideway is building the Thames Tideway Tunnel to tackle the problem of overflows from London’s Victorian sewers for at least the next 100 years, and enable the UK to meet European environmental standards. (Image © Tideway)

Tideway is building the Thames Tideway Tunnel to tackle the problem of overflows from London’s Victorian sewers for at least the next 100 years, and enable the UK to meet European environmental standards. (Image © Tideway)

Standard BIM systems can be “clunky to use, expensive to buy and require specialist skills to operate,” Beckett said. However, he sees benefits in a cloud-based approach, which offers the advantages and capabilities of BIM while making information more broadly available to people of all skill levels.

“The Thames Tideway Tunnel is expected to operate for more than a century, so all the data must be future-proofed,” Beckett said.

“A cloud-based solution to project management at this scale would allow stakeholders simple, easy, cheap, permanent and traceable access to the data that they need, today and into the future.”

CONTINENTS UNITED

“Visual simulations and high-resolution data are necessary to properly think through very complex projects,” said John Cerone, director of Virtual Design and Construction at New York-based architecture firm SHoP Architects.

“Standard BIM supports traditional building practices, but builders are seeing that a high-quality, unified 3D cloud-based approach helps them make more money by being more efficient.”

That the industry will accept a unified approach to managing building project data is only a matter of time, Cerone said.

“Construction is such a large part of the global economy that many billions can be saved and made through efficiencies,” he said.

Encouragingly, SHoP is hearing significant interest from builders who want to share the benefits of a unified approach.

Replacing linear processes with the concurrent working practices enabled by a unified approach speeds the design-to-fabrication process and introduces greater accuracy while automatically maintaining financial rigor.

“If car companies can know how much steel goes into a car, to the micron, why can’t you do that with a building?” Cerone said.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “Car companies know how much steel goes into
a car to the micron; why not buildings?” @SHoPArchitects

On a current project, Botswana Innovation Hub, an iconic symbol of Botswana’s support for research and development, SHoP has attained this level of “digital craft” across continents.

The results, Cerone said, are “speed with no waste, total accuracy of fabrication and absolute budgetary control.”

“A new 3D-model-based paradigm that actually incentivizes innovation, produces higher profits and helps make better buildings is coursing through the AEC industry,” Cerone said. “The industry is transforming, and it is very exciting to be a part of it.”

4 Benefits of Building Lifecycle Management:

BIM (Building Information Modeling) data, combined with PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) capabilities and processes, creates “Building Lifecycle Management” (BLM), which can increase construction predictability, long-term value and profitability. Main benefits include:

Improve Productivity: BLM helps remove version-control issues, with all users accessing a single live database. Human error, rework and iterations can be drastically reduced.

Increase Quality and Value: Armed with richer data in context, designers can make better decisions. Data access also improves coordination among builders and suppliers, allowing them to more quickly and accurately realize the design intent. BLM also offers built-in governance and traceability, improving accountability.

Reduce Waste, Risk and Cost: BLM is designed to reduce waste by more accurately predicting outcomes, identifying potential points of conflict and optimizing processes. BLM also reduces risk to the project schedule, worker safety and the overall construction budget.

Gain a Competitive Advantage: A BLM system enables a team to become more efficient than competitors, deliver higher quality, gain the loyalties of owners and design partners and retain a healthier profit margin.

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WHITEPAPER End-To-End Collaboration Enabled by BIM Level 3: An Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industry Solution Based on Manufacturing Best Practices

Design for Fabrication Industry Solution Experience

It’s Time to Provide More Than Design Intent for Architectural Projects

By Akio
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No car manufacturer in business would create an engine bay by interpreting a representative 2D drawing—yet it is still acceptable for AEC professionals to work that way.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: No car manufacturer would build from
a representative 2D drawing. Why should #AEC?

Today’s complex buildings should no longer rely on fragmented communication through 2D drawings or pdfs, said Robert Beson of AR-MA (Architectural Research – Material Applications Pty Ltd.), in a recent presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum Asia Pacific South 2016.

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Beson suggested that architects today have a responsibility to provide more than just design intent. When relying on 2D drawings, too much is left up to interpretation.

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to provide more than just design intent

“It’s necessary to fully engage with the methods of construction, of manufacturing, assembly, logistics and installation,” Beson says. “We need to understand and engage our supply chain from concept through design.”

Adapting to New Processes

Moving to a collaborative platform based on parts and assemblies makes sense, but requires new skillsets from designers.

Today, every project AR-MA designs is comprehensively modeled in 3D.

Every project uses 3D laser point cloud scanning to verify work as it’s built onsite.

Every project uses 3D laser point cloud scanning to verify work as it’s built onsite.

The shift requires architects to interact in new ways with fabrication and construction professionals.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: Architects must interact in new
ways with fabrication & construction pros 

Take connection brackets, for example. By combining 3D scanning and a just-in-time fabrication pipeline, it’s no longer necessary to design complicated 3-way adjustable brackets. The team can design simple laser cut plates, each of which are slightly different and ultimately improve the tolerances onsite.

The need for 2D drawings can be fully removed by laser cutting or engraving directions for assembly into the materials themselves.

To provide these fabrication-ready solutions, every member of the team at AR-MA writes code.

Every AR-MA team member writes code in order to directly send information to fabrication machinery.

Every AR-MA team member writes code in order to directly send information to fabrication machinery.

“It’s not enough just to model, and put together assemblies and parts, and think through the building process,” Beson says. “It’s crucial to engage with the means of production and be able to communicate with them. Often that means writing code and sending G-codes directly to the CNC machines.”

Comprehensive Modeling for Wynyard Walk’s Unique Components

For Wynyard Walk, a pedestrian walkway recently completed in Sydney, AR-MA was contracted to manage and execute detail design of the stainless cladding. The team had to deliver a fabrication-ready package of over 3,000 perforated stainless panels and lights, more than 50% of which were entirely unique.

Beson notes that it would not have been possible to work from 2D drawings of the mostly unique 3,000 perforated stainless steel panels at the Wynyard Walk pedestrian walkway.

Beson notes that it would not have been possible to work from 2D drawings of the mostly unique 3,000 perforated stainless steel panels at the Wynyard Walk pedestrian walkway.

The designers wanted a parametric model that was flexible enough to respond to ongoing design challenges.

The model had to accommodate an as-built primary structure, a glass reinforced concrete wall cladding, interfaces with the ceiling, and ongoing changes in the panel layout and perforations due to modifications in the façade mullions and setouts.

The contractor found the Façade Design for Fabrication powered by 3DEXPERIENCE platform best fit its needs.

Its integration of design and engineering, part and assembly paradigm, and scalability, among other features, allowed the team to produce a highly detailed and accurate 3D model of the entire project scope.

The integration of design, engineering and fabrication information made the 3DExperience a strong solution for this project.

The integration of design, engineering and fabrication information made the 3DEXPERIENCE a strong solution for this project.

Not only did the comprehensive model prevent problems before they arose, but it allowed designers to minimize the number of part drawings by providing fabrication-ready geometry that was sent directly to the fabricator.

This saved time in the office and factory, and removed any error from misinterpretation of the 2D drawings.

For example, the tremendous time crunch made it necessary to release all fabrication information in batches. Façade Design for Fabrication helped the team to coordinate and track those batch releases, as well as any revisions.

Technical Support of Creativity

Beson pointed out that architecture has long been considered a creative endeavor, but what unifies the team at AR-MA is a belief that architects must unite creativity with technical ability.

“Both are necessary to produce the types of innovative and formative buildings our cities require today,” he says.

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